For me, the most interesting moment in the first half came when I noticed an advertising hoarding offering discounted hardwood floors. Earlier in the day I’d been selecting kitchen options for the new house I’m in the process of buying, and had become riven with indecision over tile types, whether walnut carcasses would work with glossy white cabinet doors, and what the point of a double sink is anyway – some sort of apartheid approach to washing up. Now I began worrying that I ought to be considering a hardwood floor.
I mulled this decision for some minutes, as the Arsenal players sprayed balls into touch on the screen. Despite all the attendant stress and expense (not in itself unlike following Arsenal) my home furnishing dilemmas still seemed eminently more soluble than those facing Mr Wenger. Like why is the team buccaneering one game, and impotent in the next? Why can’t they defend, still? And what the hell has happened to Rosicky anyway? I’ve spent plenty of time pondering these, and more, without happening across any effective answers. Consequently the first half drew to a close with my thoughts dominated by sofa placements rather than the failures of our scouting system. Boring, boring Arsenal eh?
The second half was quite a bit better, with two sumptuous finishes from Gibbs and Podolski, sandwiched by a wonderful individual goal by Michu, and some equally unwonderful defending which allowed Danny Graham to smash home an equaliser that Swansea largely deserved. On balance, I’m of course pleased to still be in the competition which – how to put this politely? – we are at least theoretically capable of winning.
After the game I got into a (polite) debate with one fan, who felt that some are too critical of Arsene for not ‘discovering’ and signing Michu, and made the not unreasonable point that plenty of fans would have been unenthused by his signature in the summer. I can see that to a degree (though Michu was the top-scoring midfielder in Spain), but going into the season my main issue was with the obvious lack of balance in the squad, which left us with little/no obvious cover for the likes of Cazorla, Giroud and Arteta. What we needed then, and even more clearly need now, was more bodies, not just to bulk out the squad, but who could be relied on as options for rotation.
As for Michu specifically, I can’t claim any particular hindsight. The frustration I have is far more with our failure to go for targets like Suarez (I know, but still), Kompany and Dembele when they were available – all of whom were within budget and on AFC’s radar. Bear in mind Kompany cost around £6m, and came at a time when City’s trophy credentials were far less clear. Now weep. The idea Arsenal couldn’t have at least competed for his signature seems implausible. And that isn’t hindsight talking – I was desperate for all three of those at the time.
But before you jump in, no, of course I don’t know more than Arsene or his scouts. And, yes, I probably would have bought Melo. The point, I suppose, is that I don’t think any of those three were punts. Any more than buying, say, Cazorla was a punt. The value was clear, the players were proven, and to a large degree they’ve all performed largely as expected. Which isn’t to say there aren’t risks involved in any transfer, but given the sheer amount of information available in the digital age, in which every single match is recorded and archived, the risks are certainly more mitigated against than they once were.
The point I’m dancing around is that we’re a week into January now, and it’s time to be bold. Post-match the manager agreed that Djourou and Chamakh had been cleared out, in part, to make way for ‘one or two’ arrivals. I’m on record as saying we probably need five, but two strikes me as the bare minimum. We shall see, but it’s ominous that after Southampton he said:
“I change my mind whether I need to go into the transfer market from game to game.”
I can only hope for his sake that his #teampositivegoonerfamilyCOYG apologists are correct, and that this sort of quote is purely a put-on for the media. (For whose actual benefit that serves, I couldn’t say – it enrages most fans, and the idea that selling clubs will somehow be gulled into accepting lower offers strikes me as a ridiculous fantasy.) The remainder of January looks like being an absolutely critical period, both on and off the pitch. There’s still everything to play for. Let’s hope all eyes are open to what’s required.